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The elderly keep cybercafes alive in Kenya

22 September 2014, 10:40

Nairobi - The forecast that cybercafes in Kenya will die soon has become music to businessman Kevin Mutua.

Mutua, who runs the business in Komarock, has had the doomsayers talk about the demise of cybercafes for the past three years, but his internet cafe is still going strong.

And he has two certain categories of people to thank – the middle-aged and the elderly.

They are the customers who frequent his cybercafe every day to browse the internet, print documents and access typesetting services.

"Over 95 percent of my clients are people aged 45 and above. I rarely serve young people," said Mutua on Saturday.

As many other cybercafe operators in the capital, Mutua lost young people because many of them access the internet through mobile phones.

The Communication Authority of Kenya notes that mobile phones account for 99 percent of the 13.1 million internet subscriptions and the 22 million users in the East African nation. The numbers have been on the rise due to continued expansion of 3G services and popularity of social networking sites, particularly among young people.

Having realized that the youth have no interest cybercafes, Mutua tailored his business to suit the needs of mature clients.

"Initially I used to play loud music in the cybercafe to attract the youth and had pasted various photos of celebrities, particularly those of English football, on the wall because that is what young people wanted, but I stopped all that," Mutua said.

He then removed the photos from the walls and stopped playing loud music. He further redesigned the room to give clients more privacy. And his efforts have paid off.

"Most elderly people are not tech-savvy. I thus guide them in every step they take on the internet. I have opened emails for them and I keep their passwords, which they use to access their accounts when they come," he said.

The good thing about elderly people, according to Mutua, is that they do not worry about charges.

"When they see something interesting on the internet, they will print so that they can read. And they can even stay on the computer for two hours. This gives me more income. Many young would save things in the flash disk and stay for less than 10 minutes," said Mutua, adding he can make 29 dollars on a good day.

Away from Mutua, at Terrific Cybercafe on Moi Avenue in the city center, the trend is the same.

"If you do not reach out to mature clients, then you cannot survive in this business currently," said Calvin Oketch, an attendant who, at the internet point, which has diversified into selling soft drinks, has a small studio for taking passport photos and offering Skype calls services.

To attract mature people, the cybercafe has also stopped playing loud music, and all the computer monitors are 17 inches for better viewing.

Also read: Internet use grows in Kenya

Bernard Mwaso, an information technology professional who runs Edell IT Solutions in Nairobi, said mature people still throng cybercafes because their needs are different.

"Young people will not go to cybercafes because what many of them do on the internet is chat on social media. That can be done on phone comfortably. But for mature people, some of them would want to access government websites for tenders, and print documents, what you cannot do on phone," he said, adding that it is a good thing that cybercafes still have business.

 - Xinhua

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